Excavating the Old North Church – Looking Back

Tomb 3 marker.

Tomb 3 marker.

Tomb 9, under the front door of the church.

Tomb 9, under the front door of the church.

Christ Church—better known as Boston’s Old North Church—has played a role in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, literally since the very first scene. When we were doing character planning, we needed a project for Dr. Matt Lowell to work on in his role as an active researcher within the field of forensic anthropology at Boston University. We knew about the Old North’s historic crypts and thought this would be a great place to set Matt’s project.

In September 2009, when I travelled to Boston for my first research trip, I met with Reverend Stephen Ayers who not only took me on a personal tour of the crypts (which at the time were closed to the public), but shared with me all current research on the site. It was then that I learned about the charnel house in the corner of the basement that contained approximately one thousand sets of the church’s oldest remains.

The first of the burials in the basement crypts of Christ Church took place in 1723. However, by 1836, the existing 34 crypts were insufficient to handle incoming burials. A small wing was constructed attached to the back corner of the church, and three new tombs—numbers 35, 36, and 37—were planned. However, it was decided concurrently to clear out the older crypts, allowing them to be reused. In 1845, they took advantage of the construction of tomb 37 to create a charnel house below it. It is the same dimensions as tomb 37, but is sunk eight feet beneath the current tomb floor. They transferred all the oldest remains into this pit, and then sealed the charnel house, later filling tomb 37 above it.

Plans for the Old North tombs – 1820.

Plans for the Old North tombs – 1820.

The church recognized the desire by Bostonians to be interred within the walls of the Old North, even though the crypts were closed in 1860 due to health concerns about burying the dead within the populated city limits of the north end. To meet this need, they constructed a modern columbarium in 1992 to accept the ashes of those wishing to be buried in the Old North crypts. However, so do so, they built around the three last tombs, enclosing tombs 35, 36, and 37, including the charnel house. In her paper, Of the Lonely Belfry and the Dead: An Historical and Archaeological Study of the Burial Crypts of Boston's Old North Church, Jane Lyden Rousseau outlines the history of the crypts and the sealing of the columbarium. Reverend Ayers discussed the possibility of obtaining the funds to excavate the charnel house, but this would have to be done around the existing columbarium and without disturbing the modern remains. Given the extra complexity of such an excavation now, whether this will be possible someday remains to be seen.

Prior to building the Old North columbarium in 1992. Tombs 35 and 36 are on the far left. Tomb 37 is on the far right.

Prior to building the Old North columbarium in 1992. Tombs 35 and 36 are on the far left. Tomb 37 is on the far right.

The Old North columbarium. Tomb 35 is located behind the niches on the far right side of the columbarium; tomb 37 is behind the niches in the foreground, right side.

The Old North columbarium. Tomb 35 is located behind the niches on the far right side of the columbarium; tomb 37 is behind the niches in the foreground, right side.

But we saw the charnel house as an opportunity to give Matt the perfect project in his field in the city he loves. So we changed the layout of the columbarium slightly, eliminating one wall of niches, allowing Matt and his team of grad students—Kiko, Paul and Juka—access to the remains. And when Trooper Leigh Abbott meets Matt for the first time, this is where she finds him.

Leigh stopped at the bottom of the stairs, the large area under the church sanctuary spreading before her. Through the doorway opposite, a long corridor stretched away into the gloom that shaded the far reaches of the space, dimly lit by the few exposed light bulbs that hung from the ceiling. There, long held safe in the quiet darkness and forgotten by all but a scarce few, were the oldest crypts in Boston.

Standing in the nearly silent basement, with only the creaks from the floorboards overhead betraying the presence of the funeral mourners, the centuries of history entombed in this building surrounded her, just like the dead sleeping inside the aged brick walls.

The vicar’s words rang in her head. You’ll find him if you go down the stairs and turn right into the columbarium.

The atmosphere changed the moment she stepped over the threshold. The basement and the crypts were cold and damp, but even surrounded by walls of modern burial niches, the columbarium seemed warm and inviting. A space where the living could feel closer to the dead who had gone before them.

Mournful music filtered through the floorboards into this quiet room of remembrance.

It felt . . . peaceful.

The peace was abruptly shattered by the clatter of something solid falling to the floor followed by a soft curse.

There he is.

On the far side of the room, a door opened into a small chamber. A doorway was cut into one of the whitewashed chamber walls, bright russet clay revealed at the entrance. Moving to stand in the gap, she looked into the tomb, staring in shock at the chaos within while breathing air musty with centuries of undisturbed stillness.

Rotting wooden boxes of different shapes and sizes were stacked haphazardly along the walls. Many of the boxes had collapsed, their lids loosened and their contents spilled out over other boxes and across the floor. Bones of every size and description lay in tangled piles, mixed with funeral ornaments and remnants of moldering cloth. A solitary skull grinned up at her from where it lay tipped against the cracked side of a crumpled box.

A movement to her left drew her attention and her gaze shifted to the man kneeling with his back partially turned to her. He bent over the pile of debris, freeing a single bone before transferring it carefully in his gloved hands to a clear plastic tub on the floor beside him.

We wrote the charnel house based on similar ossuaries found in Britain and described by Ms. Rousseau in Of the Lonely Belfry and the Dead. Someday, if Reverend Ayers and interested archeologists get their wish, they may find out exactly what treasures are contained within the charnel house.

But, on the short term, a real-life excavation has just begun in the basement of the Old North, in the main block of crypts under the church sanctuary. Next week, we’ll be back to talk about the exciting dig Boston’s City Archeology Program recently launched.

Photo credit: Jane Rousseau and Jen Danna

Canine DNA Profiling

Ann and I are back to blogging now, but we're also shifting back into more forensics-related posts as we're moving toward the release of LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, book five in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. Today, we're looking at a topic that spans our two series as we examine the forensic technique which recently saved the life of a service K-9.

DNA profiling has been used in law enforcement, medical examiners, and archeologists for humans for decades. DNA is used for profiling both victims and suspects in crimes, for identifying the dead after mass disasters, and tracing family lineages through mitochondrial DNA. But the same techniques can be used for other species.

Recently a case came to light of a Belgian Malinois service dog named Jeb who was sentence to be destroyed after he was convicted of killing a neighbour’s dog, Vlad. He was not actually witnessed killing the 16-pound Pomeranian, but he was found by the late dog’s owner standing over the body of the dead dog. While not definitive, it certainly didn’t look good for Jeb. He was taken into custody by Animal Control and a judge was appointed to hear the case. After hearing testimony, including how the neighbour was scared by the large dog because ‘he always barked’, the judge made the reluctant decision to designate Jeb as a ‘dangerous animal’. As a result, he had no choice but to call for the dog’s death.

However the owners, Penny and Kenneth Job, never believed for a moment that their dog was capable of such a violent act. They had adopted Jeb after he’d been rescued as an abandoned pup in Detroit by their daughter, Kandie Morrison. Morrison worked for a local rescue group, but quickly recognized that the young Malinois would make an excellent service dog for her father, as United State Air Force veteran with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a neurodegenerative disease. With the help of a local veterinarian, Jeb was trained into a gentle, dependable service dog to help support Ken Job and to be there for him if he falls.

The accusation of Jeb being the cause of Vlad’s death didn’t make sense to the Jobs. This simply wasn’t the dog they knew and who lived with three dogs and seven cats in complete peace. Rather than simply taking the heartbreaking news at face value, they took matters into their own hands. While they had previously believed Vlad had been cremated following the investigation, they discovered during the course of the trial that his body was instead frozen. They had argued during the trial that a stray dog had been seen in the area around the time of the killing, and the area was populated with wild foxes, but now they had a chance to scientifically prove Jeb’s innocence. They swabbed the inside of his cheek and arranged for samples to be taken from Vlad’s wounds for comparison at the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

The Jobs were thrilled when the results came back vindicating their dog. Yes, Vlad has been killed by a dog, but not by Jeb. Shortly after, Jeb was released and returned to his loving family and crucially important life of service. DNA had proven his innocence, exonerating him just as it can exonerate innocent human convicts.

DNA analysis is not a regular part of canine cases, even those that call for the destruction of an animal. But the $460 spent by the Jobs definitely decided the case and saved the life of their beloved pet and helpmate. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about animal cases in the same light—when a life hangs in the balance, isn’t it worth ensuring that justice is being done? $460 doesn’t seem like that high a price to pay to avoid an innocent paying for a crime he didn’t commit.

Photo credit: CNN

Report From The Writing Trenches – March 2017

We’re back! *waves* We’ve been away from regular blogging for much too long, but we’ve been working hard in the meantime and had to keep our heads down while revising several manuscripts and planning for a few more books. So next week will be a normal Skeleton Keys post, but this week we’ll fill you in on what we’ve been up to.

FBI K-9s: Just before we went on hiatus, we were able to show you our stunning new cover for BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. Since then, we’ve done a full developmental edit with our fabulous new editor, Esi Sogah, who suggested some really solid changes for the book that made it so much better. And then over the past few weeks, we completed the copy edit of the manuscript. So now, with the exception of the galley proof, BEFORE is in the bag. We’ll be looking at early reader copies going out in late July and then the book releases on September 26th.

This means we’re turning our attention to book 3 in the series and its deadline on December 1st for a 2018 release. We took the time to really look at the idea we had for this book originally, and had some concerns which we brought to Esi. The idea was solid, but now, after writing LONE WOLF and BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, we realized we had a problem with the outline for book 3—set on the west coast, it was too isolating. Especially after book 2, Meg and Hawk have amassed a tight ensemble of supporting characters: her sister Cara, Washington Post reporter Clay McCord, Washington DC firefighter/paramedic Todd Webb, and fellow FBI personnel including team members Brian Foster and his German shepherd Lacey, Lauren Wycliffe and her border collie Rocco, and the newly introduced Scott Park and his bloodhound Theo. In moving the storyline to the west coast, some of this group might appear in the book, but most would not. As a result, we didn’t think it would work, so we put our heads together with Esi and came up with a new idea that would allow us to involve everyone in the case. Research is already started and we’ll be jumping into real story planning shortly and will be drafting by mid-April to early May.

Abbott and Lowell: We originally wanted to get LAMENT THE COMMON BONES out earlier, but the contracted work for BEFORE had to come first, and we decided to do one more really ripping edit on it, which took about 6 weeks. But that is nearly complete and then we’ll start to look at a cover and a release date for Abbott and Lowell #5. We could see it out in May/June for summer vacation reading.

Appearances: Bouchercon 2017 is coming up in Toronto this October and Jen is already registered to be there to represent us as separate and joint authors. I know some of our readers are already planning to come (Kathy... are you registered yet?). For any of our readers who are avid mystery and thriller readers and would love to interact with their favourite authors, there are already 1100 people signed up, over half of which are authors. So, if you love Louise Penny, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Meagan Abbott, Kelley Armstrong and many, many more, it’s a great trip to an amazing city with a chance to meet well-known authors and even discover some new ones. As an added bonus, for the Americans in the crowd, the low Canadian dollar makes it a cheap trip for you! Want more information? It’s all right here: Bouchercon 2017.

See you next week when we get back into the swing of regular blogging!

Cover Reveal for BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

We're not blogging right now because Ann and I are in the middle of edits for book 2 in the FBI K-9s series, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. But we just got the green light to show off the brand new cover for it, so we had to stop to show off the pretty. Isn't it amazing?

In this powerful K-9 crime thriller, FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her trusted
search-and-rescue Labrador, Hawk, must race against the clock before a diabolical killer strikes again…
Somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, a woman lies helpless in a box. Beneath the earth. Barely breathing. Buried alive. In Quantico, the FBI receives a coded message from the woman’s abductor. He wants to play a game with them: decipher the clues, find the grave, save the girl. The FBI’s top cryptanalysts crack the code, and Special Agent Meg Jennings and her K-9 partner, Hawk, scramble to follow a trail of false leads to the scene of the crime. By the time they solve the puzzle, it’s too late. But the killer’s game is far from over . . .
Soon another message arrives. Another victim is taken, and the deadly pattern is repeated—again and again. Each kidnapping triggers another desperate race against time, each with the possibility of another senseless death. That’s when Meg decides to try something drastic. Break the Bureau’s protocol. Bring in her brilliant sister, Cara, a genius at word games, to decipher the kidnapper’s twisted clues. Meg knows she’s risking her career to do it, but she’s determined not to let one more person die under her and Hawk’s watch. If the plan fails, it could bite them in the end. And if it leads to the killer, it could bury them forever . . .

BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE releases September 26, 2017!

K-9 Breeds: Beagles and Pit Bulls

In our last post on K-9 breeds, we’re going to look at two breeds that most people don’t think of when discussing working dogs. But they should because they are hardworking, intelligent, and fill some unique roles.

Beagles: Due to their size, speed and keen sense of smell, beagles were originally bred for tracking hare and rabbits as part of the equestrian hunt. In modern times, their smaller size makes them excellent candidates for working indoors and especially around people. They are used for scent detection, primarily in airports and at borders, searching for prohibited imports, currency, and drugs. In fact, the Beagle Brigade is an important part of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Beagles are also notable among K-9s as having the ability to actually categorize smells, meaning they can differentiate between restricted (such as certain foodstuffs) vs. non-restricted items.

Pit Bulls: Not an actual breed, pit bulls are a type of dog including the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog. Often maligned, pit bulls are safely and effectively used currently in select police departments. Rather than spending up to $20-40,000 on a trained German shepherd, organizations like Animal Farm Foundation sponsor the of rescue pit bulls from shelters and help train them to be dependable K-9s. These high energy, very trainable dogs are used for patrol, drug and explosive detection, search-and-rescue, and tracking. They are also used as ambassadors between police and civilians.

Ann and I are going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays and work on our edits of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE (FBI K-9s book2). The best of the holiday season to you and your family, and we’ll see you in the new year!

Photo credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Milwaukee Police Department

Want to join Jen’s newsletter to stay up to date on the latest publishing news and exclusive early content like cover reveals (two of which will be coming early in the new year)? Then sign up at the bottom of the home page! https://jenjdanna.com/

LONE WOLF is now out! Don’t miss this chance to start a great new series. It also makes a fantastic holiday gift for the dog or mystery/thriller lover in your life! You can find it as these fine retailers in hardcover, eBook and audiobook formats: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers.

K-9 Breeds: German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois

Last week on the blog we started to look at some of the canine breeds used by law enforcement and search-and-rescue groups as their working dogs. Today, we’re continuing on with the topic, looking at the two types of dogs best known as ‘police’ dogs, namely German shepherds and their close cousin, the Belgian Malinois.

German Shepherds: Dating back to 1899, the breed was originally developed to herd sheep. But owners quickly noticed that these dogs were notable for their strength, intelligence, teachability, and obedience, so they were further bred and trained into specialized roles. German shepherds are known for their keen sense of smell and the ability to work amid distractions. In the world of modern law enforcement, they are the breed taking on the most diverse roles, including drug and explosives detection, tracking, patrol, apprehension, search-and-rescue, and cadaver detection.

Belgian Malinois: Also known as the Belgian shepherd, these dogs are slightly smaller and lighter than German shepherds. When used in the Middle East and other hot climates, they tend to be less prone to heat stroke. They are extremely intelligent, high energy dogs, and are currently the K-9 of choice for the secret service to guard the White House. As working K-9s, they are used for drug, explosives and arson detection, tracking, patrol, apprehension, search-and-rescue, and retrieving.

Next week, in our final installment, we’ll be looking at the beagle and bully breeds and their special roles in keeping citizens safe.

Photo credit: Gomagoti and Eric Wedin

Want to join Jen’s newsletter to stay up to date on the latest publishing news and exclusive early content like cover reveals (two of which will be coming early in the new year)? Then sign up at the bottom of the home page! https://jenjdanna.com/

LONE WOLF is now out! Don’t miss this chance to start a great new series. It also makes a fantastic holiday gift for the dog or mystery/thriller lover in your life! You can find it as these fine retailers in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers.

**Right now the eBook is specially priced at $2.99 until January 1, 2017. Want to try a new series but are concerned with the price? This is your time to get the book at a great sale price. But one for yourself or give it as a gift!**

K-9 Breeds: Labrador Retrievers and Bloodhounds

Three weeks ago, we shone a spotlight on Bretagne, the last known surviving 9/11 search-and-rescue dog, who died this past year. This week on the blog, we’re going to start a series of posts about typical (and some less-than-typical) K-9 dog breeds, starting with Bretagne’s breed—the Labrador retriever—and moving onto a number of other well-known breeds including German shepherds, beagles and pit bull type dogs.

Labrador Retrievers: These dogs are bred in three main colours—black (better known as black Labs), yellow (better known as golden retrievers) and brown (better known as chocolate Labs)—but all three colours are well suited to be working dogs. They are noted for low levels of aggression, therefore they are not used for suspect apprehension or patrol. However, this personality trait makes them extremely suitable as search-and-rescue dogs. Additionally, these dogs have a very strong sense of smell, which is why they were originally used as retrieving dogs during the hunt. In the modern working dog world, that keen sense of smell is used for suspect tracking and arms, drugs, explosives, accelerant, and general object detection. Retrievers are excellent air scent and/or trailing dogs.

Bloodhounds: Bloodhounds were originally bred for hunting, but they became one of the oldest breeds to be used in police work. Since the Middle Ages, these dogs have been renowned for their skill in human tracking. Many find them comical looking, but their physiology actually aids in their work since their floppy ears and loose skin help in scent gathering. They are able to follow days-old scent over long distances, which makes them useful while tracking suspects, lost children, and missing pets. Bloodhounds can be willful and sometimes difficult to train, but a trained bloodhound is a huge boon to any law enforcement agency or search-and-rescue group fortunate enough to have one.

Next week, we’ll be back with what most people recognize as a police dog—the German shepherd and it’s close relative, the Belgian Malinois.

Photo credit: Stannate and John Leslie

Want to join Jen’s newsletter to stay up to date on the latest publishing news and exclusive early content like cover reveals (two of which will be coming early in the new year)? Then sign up at the bottom of the home page at https://jenjdanna.com/!

LONE WOLF is now out! Don’t miss this chance to start a great new series. It also makes a fantastic holiday gift for the dog or mystery/thriller lover in your life! You can find it as these fine retailers in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers.

LONE WOLF is out!

LONE WOLF releases today! *throws confetti* It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here: book 1 in the FBI K-9s series is out!

So what is LONE WOLF all about?

In the first book in a thrilling new series, FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and Hawk, her loyal search-and-rescue Labrador, must race against time as they zero in on one of the deadliest killers in the country . . . 

Meg and Hawk are part of the FBI’s elite K-9 unit. Hawk can sniff out bodies anywhere—living or dead—whether it’s tracking a criminal or finding a missing person. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it takes all of the team’s extensive search-and-rescue training to locate and save the workers and visitors buried beneath the rubble. 

But even as the duo are hailed as heroes, a mad bomber remains at large, striking terror across the Eastern seaboard in a ruthless pursuit of retribution. As more bombs are detonated and the body count escalates, Meg and Hawk are brought in to a task force dedicated to stopping the unseen killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and any number of locations could be the next target, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Hawk, and the bomber they’re tracking to rescue a nation from the brink of chaos.


You can find LONE WOLF at the following fine retailers in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers


What are people saying about LONE WOLF? Here is just a taste of some of the reviews out there:

RT Book Reviews: "An exciting angle for genre fans." 4 stars - Book Review: LONE WOLF

Publishers Weekly: "wonderfully readable series launch" - Fiction Book Review: LONE WOLF

Steph's Book Blog: "a fantastic new series". Book Review: LONE WOLF

CrimeBookJunkie: "This book was highly emotive, gripping, intense and full of suspense from the beginning straight on through to the end!  Would I recommend it?  OMFG that is a no brainer!  Hell yeah, I would!! I loved it so much, it is my current #BookOfTheMonth!" 5 stars

Not a Book Snob: "I  enjoyed Lone Wolf tremendously, so much in fact that I was up way past my bedtime reading." - Book Review: LONE WOLF

The Reading Room: "The characters are fresh and interesting including the canine ones, the plot is all too plausible in our world today, and the story unfolds in a chilling atmosphere of well-measured suspense." Book Review: LONE WOLF

Bibliophile Book Club: "Pretty much full of action from the outset, I found myself having trouble putting it down. I didn’t want to stop reading it once I started, which is always a good thing." Book Review: LONE WOLF


To celebrate LONE WOLF’s release, I held a launch event on the weekend at our incredible local bookstore, A Different Drummer. Here are a few pictures from the event.

Many thanks to the wonderful team at Kensington including Esi Sogah, our new editor, Morgan Elwell, our publicist, Kimberly Richardson, digital sales, Lauren Jernigan, social media specialist, Robin Cook, our production editor, and the rest of the Kensington team, from the art department all the way up to president Steven Zacharius. We've felt incredibly supported and the team has bent over backward at every step. Also, big thanks to Peter Senftleben, our original editor who bought the series as a three-book deal. He was a major force behind LONE WOLF, and the book wouldn't have been the same without him. He's recently moved on to a new publishing house, but has left us in Esi's excellent hands and we hope to continue to do him proud as we move forward in the series.

So, please join Ann and I in celebrating the birth of a new book and new series, and in welcoming Meg Jennings and Hawk. The fun is only just beginning!


We’re only a week out from the official release of LONE WOLF, so Ann and I wanted to release a #TuesdayTeaser of the first three chapters of the novel. Like what you read and want to have the entire book ready for instant gratification on release day? You can place your order at any of these fine retailers: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers.

You can find the first three chapters below. Happy reading!

I’m happy to celebrate the official launch of LONE WOLF this coming Saturday, November 26th at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, Ontario at 4pm. In the area and want to get a copy of the book days before it’s officially available at any other retailer? Then come on out! I’d be thrilled to see you!

Canine Highlight – 9/11’s Bretagne

On September 11, 2001, Bretagne—pronounced by her handler Denise Corliss as ‘Brittany’—and her handler were one of 300 search-and-rescue teams that arrived immediately following the disaster. After Corliss rescued the golden retriever, she and Bretange trained twenty to thirty hours a week to become members of Texas Task Force One (TF-1), one of twenty-eight federal teams that work under FEMA’s Urban Search-and-Rescue System. Even though they had been members of TF-1 for a year by that point, in an amazing trial by fire, 9/11 was Bretagne’s first outing as a search-and-rescue dog. She and Corliss were on-site for nearly two weeks as the operation began as a rescue, and then inevitably morphed into a recovery. Completing gruelling twelve-hour shifts every day, the dogs often worked to exhaustion, many of them requiring IV fluids because of the conditions and effort required. Depression caused by the lack of live survivors is a common problem for search-and-rescue dogs, and was a significant problem during 9/11 since the last survivor was pulled from the rubble just twenty-seven hours after the attack. During the days and weeks that followed, only the dead were found. In an effort to keep the spirits of the dogs up, emergency workers hid in the rubble for the dogs to ‘find’.

Bretagne was not only a search-and-rescue dog during the 9/11 operations, she also worked as an impromptu therapy dog. One day, during their shift, Bretagne noticed a devastated fireman slumped on the ground. Ignoring Corliss’s commands to return, Bretagne went to the man, lay down beside him and put her head in his lap. Years later, Bretagne and the same fireman were reunited at a remembrance service and he remembered her and how crucial her act of comfort had been that day.

Bretagne worked for another seven years with Corliss as part of TF-1 and was involved in searches that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Even after she retired from search-and-rescue at ten years of age, she continued her work as a therapy dog, working with learning disabled children at a local elementary school as a reading buddy.

At the time of her death from kidney failure on June 6, 2016, Bretagne was the last known surviving search-and-rescue dog from Ground Zero. Active right up to her final days, Bretange was just two months shy of her seventeenth birthday, an incredible age for a dog who’d worked in disaster sites known for their toxicity. Studied for her entire life for the impact of 9/11 pollutants, Bretagne’s last gift was a medical screening and necropsy at Texas A&M Veterinary School. Months before, as a sign of appreciation and to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, BarkPost.com hosted Corliss and Bretagne in New York City, putting them up at a luxury hotel, showering the dog with toys and cake, and even presenting her with the canine equivalent of the key to the city, the Bone of the Dog Park to Hudson River Park.

Photo credit: Denise Corliss and Andrea Booher/FEMA

The Brains Behind the Dog

In the past few weeks, we’ve talked about working dogs—the roles of dogs, both historical and modern, search-and-rescue dogs and the kind of searches they perform, the role of the canine nose, and search patterns. But while we’ve been very focused on the dogs, we’ve omitted any discussion of a crucial partner in these tasks: the handler.

The handler and dog make up a bonded team. The dog is the nose, but the handler is the brains of the operation. Remember last week when we talked about the challenges of searches due to terrain, or heating and cooling cycles? It’s the handler who acts as the strategist, figuring out how to stack the deck in the dog’s favour to improve the odds that the dog is successful. No matter how good the dog is, if the handler starts him in the wrong location, he’ll never catch the first trace of scent and will never find the person or object he’s searching for. It’s up to the handler to take all the conditions and the location into account, and then let the dog run the search with minimal interference. In the event that the search is not successful, it is up to the handler to somehow reward the dog so that no search day ends in failure.

But we’re not just talking about search-and-rescue handlers. We’re also talking about handlers of police, therapy, and military dogs. It takes a special kind of person to be a successful handler. Most of these men and women live with their dog 24/7, many of them in multi-dog homes. They don’t kennel the dog at the end of a police shift; the dog comes home with them and lives with their family. This kind of constant presence helps establish an initial bond, and then keeps it vital throughout the whole partnership. To reinforce this bond, many K-9s are only fed by their handlers. Food is used to reinforce successful training and proper behavior, and can be the dog’s entire source of nutrition. This also means that training doesn’t only happen at the beginning of the dog’s working life; it continues every day, throughout the day, for their entire working career. Many police and military handlers permanently adopt their K-9 once the dog retires into civilian life. A new working K-9 may then come into the mix, but the first partner is rarely discarded. The bond is that strong. In our upcoming release, LONE WOLF, the relationship between FBI handler Meg Jennings, and her black Lab, Hawk, is the centerpiece of the story. If woman and dog are not in perfect harmony, the killer in the story can’t be caught.

My writing partner Ann is a handler herself. Pictured above with her pit bull, Kane, they are a therapy team, making regular visits to  domestic violence shelters and adult day care facilities. In addition, they are training right now in competitive nosework and have already passed odor recognition tests.

So, the next time you see a working dog, remember the man or woman standing at the other end of that leash. It’s their dedication and bond with the dog that ultimately allows that team to be successful.

Photo credit: Ann Vanderlaan

Following The Scent Trail

Last week we talked about the canine nose and how both its architecture and receptors make it the perfect search tool. Today we’re going to talk about some of the difficulties dogs and their handlers have to overcome while they are working.

Scent: Scent particles emanate from everything—people, animals, and objects. In still air and away from walls and upright surfaces, scent radiates evenly from the source, the scent particles being more concentrated near the person or item and then diffusing outward, the concentration slowly falling as the scent moves outward. But unless the dog is searching in an area with minimal air currents and no heating, this kind of even diffusion is rare. Both indoors and outdoors, air is always moving and this greatly affects the dispersal of scent.

Scent Cones: In the presence of air movement, scent moves along the direction of the current, diffusing outward as it progresses until it encounters an upright surface. As a result, an ever-widening cone of scent is blown away from the origin point. Search-and-rescue dogs use this scent cone to zero in on what they are searching for.

Basic search patterns: Consider the scenario of a search-and-rescue air scenting dog who is searching for a lost child. If lucky, the parents of the child will be able to provide a piece of clothing that the dog can use to identify the child. The dog will do a heads-up search of the area, looking for any trace of that particular odor. When the dog finds the scent, he will start a pattern of trying to narrow down the scent cone, working across the wide end of the cone until he runs out of scent. Then he will turn around and run back through the cone until he runs out the other side. He will then move upwind and repeat the process. With each progressive pass through the cone, the dog will move in the direction of the stronger scent, narrowing the search cone. In the end, the dog will work its way to the lost child, the origin of the scent.

Sounds straight forward, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, in the real world, it’s rarely that easy for a number of reasons:

Air currents: Air currents blow scent mainly in one direction. This can be an advantage as the current can spread the scent a long way in the direction of the prevailing wind. Unfortunately, if dogs are coming into the search area from upwind, they are essentially nose blind until they are practically on top of the subject.

Obstacles: Obstacles can play havoc with air currents, causing a nearly straight stream of scent to pool into the dead space behind or in front of the obstacle and create a turbulent cycle. Air then coming out of that cycle could be moving in any direction, taking the scent trail with it. This makes it hard for the dog to correctly identify where the scent is coming from since he may catch the edge of an eddy, try to find the scent cone, but then lose the scent entirely as it eddies away from him.

Obstacles can also cause a chimney effect, pushing the air current high over a building or forest line so the scent finally falls to the dog’s level hundreds of feet from the source and is nearly impossible to track.

Heating and cooling: Hot air rises and cool air falls. As a result, typical daytime heating causes air currents to rise, while nighttime cooling causes them to fall. If a dog is searching a valley for a victim, the handler has to be aware of the heating and cooling patterns, initiating a late afternoon search on the hilltop above the valley. During the cooler early morning, the handler would start the search at the bottom of the valley to maximize the dog’s chance of finding the edge of the scent cone.

Terrain: In a perfect world, a search would take place in a flat field with no boulders or trees to disrupt the scent cone. But that’s not how the real world works. There are multilevel hills and valleys, rocks and trees, buildings, roads and bridges. And all of those can disrupt the scent cone making what might have been a straightforward search into a significant challenge.

Search-and-rescue dogs often make these searches look easy, but it’s intuitive strategizing by the handler and hours and hours of training by the dogs that let these teams carry off their job so smoothly. We’ve talked a lot about the dog half of a search-and-rescue team, but what about the handlers? We’ll be back next week so look at the special kind of people who make up the human side of these amazing teams.

Photo credit: Ramón Peco, Daryl James, Kristina D.C. Hoeppner, Michael Lehenbauer, and Steve.

The Canine Nose Knows

Last week, we talked about different types of search-and-rescue dogs and their different skills and searching techniques. Before we start to look at the difficulties of finding a victim in the real world, it might be useful to look at the amazing capabilities of these animals. How can a bloodhound sense a few scent molecules and use that to find a lost child? Or how can a Labrador catch a single trace of a victim buried in an avalanche or from vast distances away? The answer is actually quite simple—the canine nose.

The key to a dog’s ability to smell is twofold—the number of olfactory receptors and the architecture of the nose. Dogs have approximately 220 million receptors, compared to our own 5 million. This allows them to detect odors 100,000 times less concentrated than humans. To manage this kind of sensory overload, twelve percent of the canine brain is dedicated to smell; by comparison, humans use one percent of their brain for the same purpose. A dog’s olfactory receptors even have the infrared capability to literally smell heat. The best way to sum it up is that dogs smell like humans see: individual smells, not an overall smell (conversely, humans smell like dogs see). Where a human smells chicken soup, a dog detects cooked chicken, onions, rice, herbs and spices.

Sniffing for a dog is not actually part of their normal breathing pattern; instead it is a series of short inhalations and exhalations. Air is forced upward into the olfactory recess (pictured above in khaki), separate from the main respiratory airflow path. Due to the recessed positioning and complex folds, scent molecules are not washed out upon exhalation which allows for a concentration of scent over time. Molecules are absorbed into the mucous membranes of the olfactory recess and come in contact with the receptor neurons, which, in turn, carry the signal to the brain. An additional special aspect of canine olfaction is the ability to smell in stereo. This allows them to directionally work a scent cone and to distinguish individual smells.

Next week we’re going to look at how dogs use their amazing olfactory sense to be able to follow scent through some of the hardest of terrains, all while being confounded by air currents, turbulence, daytime heating, nighttime cooling, water, and other obstacles.

Photo credit: Rusty Clark and B.A. Craven et al

Search-and Rescue Dogs

Last week, we looked at modern working dogs and all the ways they help and protect us. Today and over the upcoming weeks, we’re going to focus in on a particular type of modern dog—the search-and-rescue dog—along with its handler.

As previously mentioned, search-and-rescue dogs are especially useful in situations where a person is missing in a large or especially hazardous area. Situations involving hikers lost in the woods or on mountains, hurricane victims, or the elderly or small children who have wandered away from home would all benefit from the amazing scenting abilities of search-and-rescue dogs.

We’ve all seen them on the news: dogs wearing bright-coloured vests climbing over collapsed buildings or running through a field or forest, searching for the lost. But how are they able to find that sole person in such a large or complex area? In the end, it all comes down to skin cells. Without our knowledge, we humans shed about 40,000 skin cells each minute, and they fall around us like a cloud, either settling to the ground around us if the air is still, or they’re caught on the downstream wind to travel significant distances. And it’s not just the skin cells dogs can smell—it’s the scent of perspiration, soap and skin care products, bacteria/fungus, hormones, and—in those less fortunate—decomposition. Dogs follow these scents to find the source that produces them. Scents come off any subject or object in a cone following the prevailing wind, i.e. narrow at the source and expanding outward in a scent cone until it dissipates or is disrupted by barriers like walls or cliffs that cause the odor to swirl and eddy. A dog’s search pattern depends on finding part of the cone and using its nose and training to locate the concentrated source.

Finding the first part of the trail can sometimes take considerable time and patience. There are three main types of scenting methods and most dogs favour one technique:

Air-scenting dogs:

  • A heads-up search, often off lead.
  • Identify the smell of any human in the area and follow the concentrating scent as the dog gets closer to the target.
  • Can cover large areas during the day or night.
  • Does not need a track to follow or a specific starting point.

Tracking dogs:

  • Nose-down search, usually on lead.
  • The dog follows a specific track of disturbance over land.
  • Follow the exact track of a specific scent, even if the target doubles back. On a mountain trail a tracking dog would follow the ascending odor trail around every switchback, even if it detected fresher odor blowing down the mountainside.

Trailing dogs:

  • A combination of air-scenting and tracking.
  • Follows a specific scent.
  • On-lead searches, using partially head-up air scenting and head-down tracking techniques.
  • Will follow the scent pool off the trail. On the mountain trail mentioned previously, the trailing dog would likely cut across switchbacks if it detected fresher odor blowing down the mountainside.

But how can they follow a scent over hills and through valleys, around rocks and through buildings? Next week we’ll look at the difficulties of tracking scent. These skilled dog and handler partnerships make it look easy, but it’s considerably harder than that!

There’s still time to win a free copy of LONE WOLF! Our publishing house, Kensington, is very generously giving away 25 copies before LONE WOLF’s November 29th release. For your chance to enter by October 19th, follow the link here: http://bit.ly/2dZYadJ. Not a Goodreads member? Sign-up is easy and free! Good luck!

Photo credit: Cleanboot and Virginia State Parks

Modern Working Dogs

Over the past few blog posts, we’ve talked about the history of working dogs and even the career of one specific WWI hero. Today we’re going to talk about modern working dogs, briefly looking at some of the crucial jobs they do today. Then, in the future, we’ll look at these jobs in more detail.

Military K-9s: Dogs have become a day-to-day part of battalion life for many of the services. They are used for patrol/sentry duty, explosives detection, drug detection, finding fallen soldiers, and signaling enemy approach. They also fulfill an important role as therapy dogs.

Police K-9s: Most modern police dogs are trained for one task such as search-and-rescue, detection of explosives, drugs, arson, or electronics, patrol, and cadaver detection. A very few dogs cross-train; for example search-and-rescue dogs who also do tracking. Detection dogs (drug, arson, electronic, explosives, etc.) are generally trained in just a single odor category, but within this one area, they learn to recognize hundreds of related scents.

Search-and-Rescue (SAR) K-9s: Some of these dogs come from official groups (e.g., law enforcement), but many SAR teams are volunteers who are part of state or national SAR groups. SAR dogs are involved in finding anyone from lost children or hikers, to drowning victims, to victims of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. These dogs include those trained to air scent, as well as dedicated tracking dogs. More on that next week.

Therapy K-9s: Therapy dogs are selected based upon temperament, appearance, and aptitude. Some dogs are trained to be comfort animals for the elderly, the sick, victims of domestic violence, or for stressed-out university students—my own university has dogs brought in for this purpose during exams, and Ann has Kane,  a working therapy dog who visits an AIDS hospice, a domestic violence shelter, and an adult day care facility. Therapy dogs must be tolerant of other animals on-site—other therapy or service animals, pets, etc.—and be willing to endure touches or hugs from total strangers.

Service K-9s: Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners and strangers. Cancer detection dogs in medical facilities can detect traces of cancer in patients long before diagnostic tests are accurate. Diabetes or epilepsy dogs are trained to detect low blood sugar levels or impending epileptic seizures so they can alert the owner or a caretaker to get help if the owner is unable to respond. Hearing assist service dogs are trained to alert owners to doorbells and ringing cell phones. PTSD dogs can recognize moments of stress in their owners and can often avert that reaction by their presence and “covering their 6”.

As you can see, these dogs are dedicated, incredibly smart, well-trained animals, who can make life and death decisions and real-time differences for their owners and the public on a daily basis. Next week, we’re going to start looking more at search-and-rescue teams, just like Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk, in our upcoming release LONE WOLF.

Speaking of LONE WOLF, our publishing house, Kensington, is very generously giving away 25 copies before LONE WOLF’s November 29th release. For your chance to enter the October 12 – 19th giveaway, follow the link here: http://bit.ly/2dZYadJ. Not a Goodreads member? Sign-up is easy and free! Good luck!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons and Ann Vanderlaan

Canine Highlight – World War I’s Sergeant Stubby

We’re starting a new type of post this week: the canine highlight. We’d like to bring to your attention some particularly outstanding working dogs who have shown as much courage as their human counterparts, saved lives, and significantly affected those around them in the most positive of ways. This week, we bring you the amazing tale of Sergeant Stubby.

In last week’s post, we talked about working dogs through the ages.  We mentioned the working dogs of World War I, concentrating on the medical aide dogs that were sent out onto the battlefields after the cessation of fighting to bring supplies to those in need. But there were other dogs as well who joined the cause—and one of those was Sergeant Stubby.

When a young bull or Boston terrier mixed breed dog wandered onto Yale University campus and into the training grounds of the 102nd Regiment, 26th Infantry Division, Corporal John Robert Conroy took a liking to the little mutt. He started feeding the stray and even let him sleep in the barracks. Eventually, Stubby became the Division mascot, spending so much time with the men that he learned all the marching maneuvers, and even was trained by Conroy to salute with his paw.

When the 26th Infantry Division was shipped out to France aboard the SS Minnesota, Conroy smuggled Stubby aboard, and then tried to keep his presence hidden. Eventually, the dog was discovered by the commanding officer. However, Stubby won the officer’s goodwill by saluting him, and was then allowed to stay with the Division openly.

Stubby accompanied the 26th to the Western Front in France, where he proved to be an invaluable part of the unit. After nearly being killed early on by mustard gas, he became adept at stiffing it out early and running up and down the trenches barking at the men to put on their gas masks before going to hide himself. His extremely sensitive hearing was also a boon—he could hear incoming shells long before the men and warned them to take cover, and he could hear the approach of advancing German foot soldiers and warned the sentries of the imminent attack. He was also known to scour the territory of “No Man’s Land” following any fighting, looking for fallen Allied soldiers in need of rescue. Stories of the time reported that he would only respond to the English language, thus avoiding the wounded Germans altogether. His actions in the unit saved countless lives.

During the Meuse-Argonne campaign in 1918, Stubby discovered a German spy in their midst, mapping the Allied trenches to take the intelligence back to the Central Powers forces (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria). When the spy tried to make a run for it, Stubby went after him and brought him down, and then clamped his jaws around the man’s rear end until soldiers from his own unit came to take the spy into custody. The unit’s commanding officer was so impressed with his performance that the dog was battlefield promoted to the rank of sergeant. This meant that he actually outranked his owner, Corporal Conroy.

Stubby took part in seventeen battles and four major offensives on the Western Front, and was the recipient of the following medals and devices for his service in battle: 3 Service Stripes, Yankee Division YD Patch, French Medal Battle of Verdun, 1st Annual American Legion Convention Medal, New Haven WW1 Veterans Medal, Republic of France Grande War Medal, St Mihiel Campaign Medal, Purple Heart, Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal, and the 6th Annual American Legion Convention.

Following the war, Stubby went to Georgetown University with Conroy while he studied to become a lawyer. While he was there, Stubby became the mascot of the football team and was infamous for coming out during the halftime break and pushing a football around the field with his nose to the delight of the crowds. He was inducted into the American Legion, marching in all their parades, and even met Presidents Wilson, Coolidge and Harding at the White House.

You can still see Sergeant Stubby today. Following his death in 1926 at approximately ten years of age, he was taxidermied by Conroy and gifted to the Smithsonian in 1956. He is now part of one of their World War I exhibits at the National Museum of American History. His WWI uniform, complete with all his medals, is on display at the Hartford State Armory.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons and Smithsonian National Museum of National History

Working Dogs Through The Ages

In last week’s post, we talked about how dogs moved from hunting competitors to become an integrated part of our society. For many of us in the modern age, we look on dogs as companions and family pets, but dogs have been considered working animals for thousands of years.

Specifically, how have dogs worked with us to improve our lives and livelihood through the millennia?

  • Greeks and Romans: Molossus dogs (forebears of modern mastiffs) were bred for war, protection and hunting.
  • Vikings: Native Arctic wolves were interbred with domestic dogs producing a ‘spitz-type’ dog related to the modern Norwegian elkhound. Dogs were used for cattle herding, and for hunting moose and bear.
  • Spanish Conquistadors: Mastiffs were carried on ships to the New World, where they were armored and used as battle dogs used to pursue, disembowel and dismember the enemy.
  • American Civil War: Cuban bloodhounds (a mastiff breed used as killer pursuit dogs) were used to track escaped slaves at the Confederate Andersonville prison.
  • World War I: ‘Mercy’ dogs were sent out onto the battlefields with first aid packs after battles for soldiers to self-treat their injuries. Dogs were also used for personal protection and tracking.
  • World War II: For the first time, dogs were used in modern military service with a single handler to search out and signal danger, carry messages between foxholes, and patrol for the enemy.
  • Vietnam War: It is estimated that approximately 5,000 dogs served in the Vietnam War as scouts, trackers, sentries, and were also used for explosives and tunnel/booby-trap detection. It is believed that military dogs saved up to 10,000 lives during the Vietnam War.

Next week we’re going to highlight a very special historical dog, Sergeant Stubby from World War I. Then later on, we’re going to look at the roles of dogs in modern life, from war, to police work, to search-and-rescue, to service and therapy dogs. Hope to see you back again.

**Last week to enter!** To celebrate the upcoming launch of LONE WOLF, Kensington is holding our first Goodreads giveaway! You can find it below. Be sure to enter for your chance to win an early copy months before it actually releases!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll

Lone Wolf

by Sara Driscoll

Giveaway ends October 02, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

A History of Man’s Best Friend

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘man’s best friend’ in reference to dogs. Dogs are our working partners, guides, guards, and family, but how did that connection between canines and humans come about?

Dogs, as we know them in the modern sense, branched off from the wild wolves in modern Asia, Europe, and the Middle East about 25,000 to 38,000 years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age. This time period means that these animals co-existed with man during his hunter-gatherer stage, immediately preceding the development of agriculture. Of all domesticated animals, dogs were the first to be domesticated in approximately 13,000 BCE, a full 4,000 years before the next domesticated animal, the sheep. Notably, the dog was the first species to have a reciprocal relationship with humans.

How did this change in relationship status move dogs and humans from competing hunters to partners on a common team? No one knows for sure, since this was long before recorded histories, but genetics and early art tell a convincing tale. It is most likely that wild dogs were attracted to cooking fires of men and the smell of roasting meat. They would also be drawn by the smell of discarded animal carcases and at first were likely raiders, pillaging any unattended or discarded meat. The key to this early relationship was the type of animals attracted to human societies: these animals were generally less aggressive and were likely the non-dominant pack members with a lower flight threshold—in other words, ideal animals for domestication. Genetically, this interaction coincided with a morphological change in the canine skull, specifically the development of a shorter snout with fewer, more crowded, and smaller teeth—all physical characteristics associated with reduced aggression.

The relationship between man and dog was commensal to begin, meaning that while it was opportunistic for the dogs, it didn’t affect the humans in any way. But their interaction became mutualistic—a relationship good for both species—as humans took advantage of the dogs’ specific skills in hunting and protection, and then adapted new skills such as herding.

An alternate theory suggests that dogs exploited an earlier mutation to be able to digest starches and carbohydrates, something wolves are not able to do. This change occurred just as man was discovering the advantages of agriculture, allowing the dogs to feed off scrap heaps more efficiently. Interestingly, humans adapted to starch digestion at nearly the same time in an intriguing twist of parallel evolution.

Over the centuries and millennia, selective breeding by humans developed dogs into the modern species we know today. Much of modern breeding revolves around appearance, however early domestication selected almost exclusively for behavioural traits. In fact, scientific studies show there was a genetic selection for adrenaline and noradrenaline pathways leading to tameness and a greater emotional response in the animals. This helped to create the domesticated, loyal, connected personalities we recognize in our dogs today.

Please join us next week as we come back looking at the role of working dogs from the Romans and Vikings onwards.

To celebrate the upcoming launch of LONE WOLF, Kensington is holding our first Goodreads giveaway! You can find it below. Be sure to enter for your chance to win an early copy months before it actually releases!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll

Lone Wolf

by Sara Driscoll

Giveaway ends October 02, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Photo credit: Fugzu and Elizabeth Tersigni

Report From the Writing Trenches – September 2016

The blog is back! Sorry for the long summer hiatus, but it’s paid off for me—I finished the first draft of FBI K-9s book #2, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, this past weekend. *throws confetti* *collapses*

So what are Ann and I up to, writing-wise? Let’s go down the list:

  1. LONE WOLF: FBI K-9s book #1 will release in eBook on November 29th and hardcopies will be in bookstores and beyond on that date or very shortly thereafter. I’ll be holding a launch right around that time, most likely at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington, but possibly an early release the preceding weekend. More details on that hopefully in the next few weeks. At this point, LONE WOLF hard copy ARCs are out and are being sent to our early readers, bloggers, and reviewers. For the first time, as a part of Kensington, copies of the books will be available on NetGalley, so some of our readers have arranged to get their copies digitally. And last week, we were pleased to see the blurb for the book from Leo J. Maloney, author of the Dan Morgan series, including ARCH ENEMY—“Tense and exciting, Sara Driscoll has created a new power couple, Meg and her FBI K-9, Hawk.”
  2. BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: As I stated before, the first draft of this book is now complete, coming in at just under 80,000 words. This is a great length for a thriller—it gives us room to still add a little more as we edit, and it also leave us room for chapter titles and definitions. What’s the theme this time? We’re 99% sure we know what it is, but that will get solidified within the next two weeks. We’ll edit from now until the end of the September. October 1st sees the manuscript going out to our amazing critique team (thank you Jenny, Lisa, Sharon, and Rick!). They’ll have the book for 2 weeks and then that leaves us about 4 weeks to put the final touches on it. The book is officially due on December 1st, but with LONE WOLF coming out on November 29th, it realistically needs to be done about 2 weeks early so we can keep all the balls in the air.
  3. FBI K-9s (Welcome to the real world of publishing, part one): Ann and I were very sad to find out recently that our Kensington Editor, the wonderful Peter Senftleben, was leaving the company to become a mysteries, suspense and thriller editor at Crooked Lane. We’re so very grateful to Peter for buying the three-book series, and very much enjoyed working with him and will definitely miss him. Peter, of course, has left us in very capable hands for the remainder of the series, so onwards and upwards.
  4. Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries (Welcome to the real world of publishing, part two): I’ve had many questions about the next book in the Abbott and Lowell series, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES. Readers knew we were writing it last year but there has yet to be an announcement about its release date. Well, we’ve got some bad news there. Our editor at Five Star definitely wanted the book, but before it was officially purchased, Five Star closed out their mystery line and is going strictly with westerns from now on. So the book has been orphaned. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen with it. It’s extremely difficult to sell the fifth book in a series, but our agent is working on it. But never fear, dear readers, the worst case scenario is that we’ll self-publish, definitely in eBook format and most likely in print as well. The book will get out one way or another—it’s the end of the big arc that started in A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH and continued through TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, so we’d be doing a huge disservice to our readers if we didn’t release it. So stay tuned for more news to come here.

To celebrate the upcoming launch of LONE WOLF, Kensington is holding our first Goodreads giveaway starting today! You can find it below. Be sure to enter for your chance to win an early copy months before it actually releases!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll

Lone Wolf

by Sara Driscoll

Giveaway ends October 02, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

We’ll be back next week with the first of our K-9 posts, so please join us!

On Hiatus For The Summer

Hey, folks. You know, being a fiction writer with a day job is pretty challenging in and of itself. But toss in your average family day-to-day stuff, some extra day job stressors, the arrival of galley proofs for your upcoming book, and a family health emergency… and things get a little extra nuts. Posts I’ve planned haven’t made it onto the blog simply because other responsibilities had to come first. And right now, our minds have be set pretty firmly on our new book, FBI K-9s #2, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, which is now 90% planned and needs to be completely written over the summer.

As a result, I’m going to be taking a hiatus from blogging for the summer to concentrate on upcoming deadlines and on giving our readers the best possible story. But we’ll be back with our usual weekly schedule in the fall as we change gears a bit on the blog and start exploring the world of K-9s in law enforcement and search-and-rescue in anticipation of the release of LONE WOLF on November 29th.

Lots more to come with LONE WOLF as we expect ARCs and NetGalley copies to become available sometime in August, and we’ll be making early reading copies available to our street team, book bloggers, and professional reviewers. In a sign of how close this is coming, I was very pleased to receive a stack of cover flats this week and they look spectacular!

As good as the cover looked electronically, it's a real knock out in printed form. Many thanks for our editor, Peter Sentfleben, and the creative team at Kensington for an eye-catching cover that is going to look amazing on bookstore shelves. I’m looking forward to using these cover flats for signings and promo later this year.

Many wishes to you all for a safe, happy, and relaxing summer. I’ll see you on the other side, hopefully with a complete draft of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE in hand!